Heroes, Victims, and Poseidon

The metre of ancient Greek poetry succeeds in “achieving a length and complexity that are unusual in the heroic verse of other literatures.” ~ Michael Grant, The Rise of the Greeks, 325, as quoted in Michael Schmidt, The First Poets, 16.

The heroes are heroic much because
Of Greek. The feet of ancient Greek stepped strong
In beat. Performance and its poets’ laws
Required short, lonnnng, short, lonnnng, short, lonnnng, short, lonnnng,
Across the stage of theatre and stage
Of voice and singing. Syllables are more
Duration than a stress and so a rage,
A love, great hate, a passion fill the shore
Below the city with a god whose power
Sucks back the waves and sends them crashing in
To mangle beauty, no matter the power
Of innocence’s horses. This is sin
For everyone except the god. The length
Of syllables reveals the harsh god’s strength.

 

Helmeted Brain and Tectonic Plates

Athena and Poseidon do not meet inside
My mind and doubtless not inside my heart.
They face each other off: she virgin bride
Of wisdom, he who gives the earth a start
With shockwaves from the depths of troubled seas.
She looks calm like logic in a marble mind.
His trident shakes because he disagrees
With normal order. Violence combined
With cataclysm is his contention.
Her rationality is like a shield
With spear. She counters with comprehension.
She thinks. She reasons that she will not yield.
And yet they both are part of the divine.
The Greeks knew both deserved a holy shrine.

 

Phillip Whidden is a poet published in America, England, Scotland (and elsewhere) in book form, online, and in journals.  He has also had an article on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” published in The New Edinburgh Review. www.phillipwhidden.com

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4 Responses

  1. Charles Southerland

    Dear Mr. Whidden, perhaps if you had chosen the Sapphic Stanza instead of sonnets to elucidate your intent, things would come into focus with what your intent was. Sappho or Catullus would be a good start, don’t you think? If you need an example or two, I can provide a couple of mine, if need be. : )

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Charles, While sapphic would be an effective (and amusing) alternate form for the first sonnet I believe the second would have been diminished by it. It is lovely just the way it is. I enjoyed the craft in each poem. I enjoyed the stories that were told and I enjoyed the visual imagery that supported the otherwise abstract and esoteric subjects. I also wish to commend the craft that went into writing them. Thank you, Mr. Whidden.

      Reply
  2. Charles Southerland

    James, I had no issue with the sonnets at all. They are finely wrought. What I had a problem with was Mr. Whidden’s charge of metre of the ancients which is really far from the metre of a sonnet. He missed an opportunity to display qualitative metre and quantitative metre. Most people don’t attempt sapphic stanzas, much less know what they are. It takes a while to get the hang of it in English. Swinburne was pretty competent at writing them.

    The metre of ancient Greek poetry succeeds in “achieving a length and complexity that are unusual in the heroic verse of other literatures.” ~ Michael Grant, The Rise of the Greeks, 325, as quoted in Michael Schmidt, The First Poets, 16.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Poets write of love and life, pain and beauty;
      Some prefer the sonnet form, others Sapphic.
      Sometimes limericks seem best; sometimes Haiku.
      Each in its season.

      Reply

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